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Making the urgent case for men

Anthony’s Esolen’s No Apologies is a timely, vigorous and sometimes profound exposition of why, as the subtitle puts it, “civilization depends on the strength of men.”

(Image: Tyler Nix/

These are not the best of times for America’s men and boys. Recent data suggest the extent of the problem, without getting at its roots.

Men now make up only 40.5% of college enrollment. Men’s median wage has been declining in real terms for over 20 years. And “deaths of despair”—resulting from suicide, overdosing on drugs, and alcoholism—have surged among middle-aged men in the same time frame. As for boys, they are more than twice as likely as girls to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, five times as likely to spend time in juvenile detention, and less likely to finish high school.

Considered in this light, some words of Anthony Esolen take on added meaning: “It is high time that men be reminded not only that they have powers as men, but also that those powers were given them to be used for the common good—for everyone, men and women and children all.”

A prolific author who is writer-in-residence at Magdalen College in New Hampshire, Esolen says that in the introduction to his new book No Apologies (Regnery Gateway). It’s a timely, vigorous and sometimes profound exposition of why, as the subtitle puts it, “civilization depends on the strength of men.”

Esolen is especially exercised at the harm done to boys by devaluing their maleness, as in the “poisonous” use of the expression “toxic masculinity” in schools and popular media. Boys, he writes, “are told that there is something wrong with them because they are not like girls…. Those who speak this way want the boys to be weaklings, to despise their own sex, to doubt their natural and healthy inclinations.”

As an unapologetic supporter of male-female complementarity, Esolen dismisses the ancient feminist wisecrack—“a woman needs a man as a fish needs a bicycle”—as a “blithering display of reality denial” contrary to the best interests of both sexes. Complementarity, one might say, is not a zero-sum game where one sex wins and the other loses but a realistic guide to what is fulfilling for both.

Feminist excess also finds its way into mainstream religiosity. I’ve been at countless Masses at which well-meaning members of the congregation, reciting parts assigned to the laity, noisily said “God” where the text read “he.” They would do well to reflect on Esolen’s warning of what lies ahead for a religion that becomes effeminate—“[it] loses the sense of the sacred, will not discipline itself, flees from suffering, grows flabby and sickly, and then dies.”

Here and there, though, Esolen presses his case too far, as in arguing that politics is an appropriate sphere for men but not women. In the not so distant past, he says, “it no more occurred either to men or to women that women should be senators” than that they should be warriors. As a description of what was, that no doubt is true, but its normativity would surely be challenged by women like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Amy Coney Barrett.

No Apologies covers its subject with commendable thoroughness for a relatively short book, but there is one regrettable omission: the current transgender madness. Granted that a small number of individuals suffer from real problems of sexual identity requiring sympathy and care, the notional underpinning of transgenderism is a perverse ideology that does real harm to vulnerable individuals. If Esolen returns to these matters in the future, as I hope he will, he would do well to address the transgender phenomenon at length.

• Related at CWR: “Without real men, civilization dies: A review of No Apologies (July 24, 2022) by Brian Welter

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About Russell Shaw 271 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. I think this is a fair and balanced review. I am familiar with Esolen’s writing and as someone who holds a lot of feminism in disdain, I have to say Mr Esolen often comes across as bitter in his attitude towards women. The reality is both men and women have been played by cultural marxists. It wasn’t women who robbed men of their masculinity. It was an all male court who legalised abortion, surveys routinely show men to be more pro choice than women. Also it has to be acknowledged that the church historically treated women a lot harsher when it came to sexual morality. A boys will be boys attitude permeated most teachings and to a large.extent women were expected to just put up with the likes of Playboy. Contraception levelled the playing field and allowed women to.act as animal like as men and to a degree this has fuelled the angst many men now.feel. There are wrongs on both sides and neither men nor women cover themselves in glory by playing the victim.

  2. “As a description of what was, that no doubt is true, but its normativity would surely be challenged by women like Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Amy Coney Barrett.”

    Ah no. Sex differences matter and sex differences, and the displacement of qualified men by women in all spheres is undeniable. Moreover the assumption that the state is a legitimate form of political organization is dubious.

    • the part following thee second “sex differences” must have been accidentally deleted

      the rest of that thought was: sex differences as manifested in distribution curves of qualities or traits also matters

  3. Alice covers all the bases fairly well. I read Anthony Esolen’s essay, or one similar awhile back. There seems another cause for significant male angst than predatory women on the pill. Yes. Men psychologically are off balance with women competing in what once was assumed virile male dominance. That other dynamic is male effeminization. His competitive edge over women lost there is added an anthropological dynamic culturally driven.
    What would cause that if not the cultural revision of male behavior inclusive of what male sexual behavior was traditionally? What Shaw and Esolen isolate in Catholic ritual effeminization is symptomatic of a confused, libertarian, false concept of tolerant equanimity. But that reverts directly to religion, and the loss of faith in a God who ordained man and woman as consistent with masculine and feminine behavior.

  4. To know how God views the matter gives us understanding, peace and usefulness. Challenges abound, yet through it all God’s way is best for our spirits, souls, not to mention our physical wellbeing.

    1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    1 Timothy 2:1-First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, …

    Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

    Genesis 2:18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

    1 Timothy 3:1-7 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? …

    Blessings of insight and peace.

  5. Social groups among mammals are usually dominated by a mature male, who fought his way to the top. Among primates the alpha male is usually the center of attention. His behavior affects the others. Among humans, male activities have higher social status than female activities. When Russia was communist, the highest social status went to engineers who were mostly men. Physicians, who were often women, had lower social status, in contrast to the high status of physicians in the US. So, the fact that men are less likely to attend college today than do women, is not a bad trend. It means colleges will decline in social status and have less corrosive influence on society. Men will go elsewhere for a relevant and effective education. When that happens, of course, feminists will try to appropriate it for themselves. Regarding ADHD, this is a condition overly diagnosed. Years ago, the ratio of boy to girls who had it was 10 t0 1. Today, 5 to 1. Boys tend to be more active, more physical and more independent than girls. That means they are more trouble for teachers, usually females, from 70 to 90%. Schools feminize boys and create a selection process which weeds out masculine boys. Of course, this is a waste. More than that, it sets up society for big trouble. Ancient historian and philosopher Herodatus observed, “Strong countries built strong men. Soft countries build soft men.” He went on, strong men invade weak countries, kill off the men and enslave the women.

  6. Substituting the word “God” for each time masculine pronouns refer to God results in what has been called “Berkeley baby talk.”

    • I agree, I hate the fake babble!! I have heard people (and priests!!) doing this at Church and find it patronizing. If the use of a male pronoun affects a person’s sense of identity or worth, changing the language in a prayer won’t help them. They actually need a psychiatrist.

    • Lynn. And LJ. It’s consistent with the spiritual disintegration of God given manhood that many women perceive, and have an important role in addressing it including with their aberrant pastors.

  7. Nobody can declare you to be inferior by virtue of your sex except YOU. As a woman myself, I am tired of women who turn everything in life into a competition against men. I hold a Masters Degree. Its a sure bet that nobody can make me feel inferior. I have no problem with women filling traditional roles and do not feel that they come up as losers by doing so. I do think that too often men and boys have opportunities downgraded or lost so that one may be given to a less qualified woman.

  8. For a secular social science view on the matter, pick up a book called “The Boy Crisis”. Dr. Warren Farrell was once a high ranking member of NOW and 2nd wave Feminist advocate. Now he is advocating for men.

  9. The irony, often unperceived, of the devaluation of men by the likes of Gloria Steinam (the author of the bicycle/fish comment) is that (some) women still want whole men, not men broken, effeminized, or confused about their identity. Others, perhaps, relish the idea of mating with such creatures. They, the women, can more easily dominate them and even abuse them, and–they think–get away with it.

    Oftentimes, people, male or female, get what they think they want and then eventually realize it is not quite the ticket. By then it is too late. More’s the pity.

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